But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. ESV Matthew 6:17-18
While fasting was common in the Old Testament, and even in the New Testament, it has largely been ignored in the modern church. Ironically, we take Jesus’ commands to do it in secret and use that as an excuse to not do it at all! (I think giving is often similar… people insist their giving be in secret so that they don’t really have to give!). However, by refusing to practice this important spiritual discipline, we rob ourselves of some of the greatest blessings God has in store for us.
Most of the spiritual disciplines are to be done in secret. Jesus specifically commanded us to pray, give and fast in secret, and with each He promised a reward. Too often, we assume because we live in the supposed age of grace, doing any of these things are “legalism” and thus should be avoided. This shows a shallow understanding of grace. These spiritual disciplines are actually means of grace whereby we might enter more deeply into God’s grace for us. By refraining from food, we cast ourselves even more on God’s provision and realize how much we need Him moment by moment. It’s easy to trust God when we are strong, or when He forces us to by putting us in a difficult situation. But to willingly enter a difficult situation that forces us to trust Him? That’s a whole new level of experiencing grace. We never fast for other’s approval, or to twist God’s arm. However, throughout Scripture, fasting does seem to open the door to heaven and a deeper communion with God. I can confirm this from personal experience.
If you’ve never fasted, the idea may seem foreign to you. May I encourage you to give it a try? Start with just a meal. Set aside your lunch hour to pray and be with God. As your hunger pains gnaw at your stomach through the afternoon, use each hunger throb as a reminder to pray. You will find yourself trusting God throughout the day. Gradually build to longer fasts, and enjoy the deeper communion with God that comes through them.